Mineral Collection Appraisal Basics
by Leonard Himes in Tucson Mineral, Vol.2 #1
When do you need a professional appraisal of your collection?
The simple answer is when you decide to sell it, donate it, or insure it. Even though you know what you paid, you probably don’t know its current value. A well known smalltime dealer sold his collection for his asked price a few years ago and was heartsick when he saw the very high prices the purchaser was able to realize for his specimens. He could have asked for more if he had known,
Conversely, collectors often so over value their collection (their babies!) that no dealer is willing to buy it. To sell a collection as a whole correctly, you need to know its real value and understand the price a dealer can pay to be able to retail it.
If you decide to donate your collection to a museum or other institution, you must have a current professional appraisal in order to reap tax benefits. You are responsible for the appraisal. See your tax adviser, use Form 8283, and see IRS Publication 526 for the rules. Even if you are not seeking a deduction, the donee will want to know the honest value.
If your collection is of high value, insurance is a good idea. The insurance agency will require a professional appraisal and you will want to have the detailed inventory with photos to assist authorities in the event of a theft.
Just in case you’ve never told your spouse what your minerals really cost, be sure an appraisal is included with your important financial papers in a safe place. There are horror stories of trade collections that heirs though had been purchased for very little but were very valuable.
For any of these needs, expect to pay an appraisal fee, IRS requires a paid appraisal. Many dealers provide appraisals or can direct you to an appraiser.
Interview prospective appraisers, check their credentials, and learn how often they do appraisals. Establish the payment details up front and sign a contract. Expect to pay for travel expenses and an hourly fee that may be substantial, but you should never pay based on a percentage of the appraised collection value. An average fee is around $1000 per day plus expenses.
Further, understand that any two appraisers are likely to assigned somewhat different values to the same specimen. This depends on their personal experiences with that species and knowledge of locality rarity. We all have personal biases that have an effect, too. For a high value collection, having more than one appraisal might be wise. You will probably find that the individual pieces will have some variance in value but the total collection value will be nearly the same from experienced appraisers.
I provide appraisals of mineral collections for sale, insurance, donation, or just to help you keep your records current. Contact me and I will send you appraisal details and suggestions. Scroll to the bottom of this page for an article I wrote on appraisals. I do not appraise jewelry, gemstones, meteorites or fossils. Please contact me by email if I can be of service.
I can consult with you on specimen display, strategies for building an important collection, and methods for disposing of a collection. I can also advise you on field collecting and establishing a specimen preparation facility or mineral business.
I clean, trim, and repair mineral specimens for myself, other dealers, museums, and individual collectors.
The lab was busy after we returned from Tucson up until our recent show trip to Tucson and Dallas We have several flats of material here for work in late May and June. We are not able to accept any additional large volume jobs until after the September shows in Denver. However, if you have a specimen or two for cleaning, please email me with details and I should be able to fit you in for delivery in August or at our Denver shows. Remember, this is a one man lab.
Please contact me by email or phone if you need work done. I can discuss it with you. Please do not send any specimens without prior contact. You can also bring your specimens to any show to discuss them with me and avoid the risk of mailing them. Drop off your specimens in Monument by appointment, if you are in the area. We are happy to deliver your specimens to The Sunnywood Collection following preparation for a custom base.
It is amazing what can be done to improve imperfect specimens. Expert preparation improves esthetics, value, and saleability of specimens. If you have specimens that you think could be made better, please contact me. We can plan the job together. I accept and return specimens by mail, at shows, or in Monument. The latter choices save shipping costs and risk of damage in transit.
My lab has the equipment to do almost everything and I've been doing this for decades. Preparation can cost as little as $60 for simple things. Big jobs can take a while and are billed at $120/hour for the actual bench-work time. I limit myself to specimens no larger than those I can easily handle, about 30 pounds, the aquamarine at the bottom of this page was at the limit. I try to return specimens quickly, but I work alone in the lab, and insist that each piece gets the time it deserves.
More on Appraisals
The director and curator to the new Maine Mineral and Gem Museum seem happy about the results on their Maine aquamarine specimen, shown as I received it on the left. You can probably guess that this was not an inexpensive job. They thought I was worth it, so they sent more three more beryls to repair. Thankfully, they were smaller.
Here is an example of a spinel specimen in a collection that the collector though could be made better. You can see the result of cleaning and an inexpensive trim allowing more crystal exposure and re-orientation.
Very few fine specimens come out of the ground intact, Earth's crust moves a lot and erosion takes it's toll. That's why pristine specimens cost so much! But, miners frequently find all, or most, of the pieces of specimens, if they are careful. Then they send them to labs like mine to be reassembled.
Below are before and after photos of a Hiddenite, NC emerald specimen. The erosion of the southern Piedmont results in a very small number of complete crystals and almost never a matrix specimen. These pieces were cleaned, reconnected, and gaps filled with color-matched epoxy. Because the pieces did not fit exactly, this was not a repair, but was a restoration. That sort of work takes more time, but this job still only cost about $500.
Many of the jobs I do are intended to make a specimen more balanced for display and to remove incomplete areas.
This large (about 10 inch) Kelly Mine, NM smithsonite needed some cleaning and surgery to remove excess matrix,
broken edges and blemishes. This job cost a few hundred dollars. Do you think it was worth it?
Note that the 'after' photo is rotated about 20 degrees counterclockwise.Type your paragraph here.
We have been privileged to work with Freeman Resources (the owner of the Mt. Mica Mine in Maine) for around a decade. We have marketed tourmaline and other minerals for the mine and been asked to prepare their specimens for display.
We were excited to recently learn that their miners encountered a swarm of pegmatite pockets earlier this year. Below is a photo of one actual pocket as discovered. Notice the rubble, lack of open space and absence of display quality specimens. This is what a pocket looks like 90% of the time, but there are great specimens in that rubble for careful collecting. The next photo shows a display of contents from this pocket after initial cleaning and in some cases temporarily reattaching pieces of crystals. Specimens from this and other nearby pockets are on their way to my lab for further preparation, including some restoration. I'll post photos on my Blog page as the work proceeds. Come back often to see the progress'
Leonard Himes Dealer in Fine Mineral Specimens
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I know there are folks who won't own a repaired specimen. But, it's hard to argue against the specimen preservation that results from a job like this. What were the pieces worth before, both monetarily and esthetically, contrasted with the result? Which piece would you like in your collection?
Why the world needs labs like mine.